Sometimes the holiday season can be stressful and rob our bodies of important nutrients we need to maintain good health. One group of nutrients affected are the B vitamins, which can be drained by certain activities associated with the holidays, like extra alcohol consumption, sugary foods and stress. This can leave us feeling depleted and drained, as these vitamins are necessary for cell metabolism, brain function and energy levels.
The Importance of B Vitamins
Stress Relief – The holidays can lead to tight schedules and a reduction of stress-busting exercise, which is often replaced with holiday shopping or after-work parties. Fortunately, B vitamins support the functions your body needs to manage stress, especially due to work. (1) Here are some of the roles these vitamins play:
- Thiamine (B1) maintains the flow of electrolytes through nerve cells, which keeps your nervous system healthy. It may stabilize your mood and boost concentration.
- Riboflavin (B2) helps your body convert carbohydrates into energy, maintain liver health, and is important to regulate mood and calm the nervous system.
- Niacin (B3) is linked to stress and mood. It is believed to boost brain function, and deficiencies of B3 may lead to fatigue and depression.
- Pyridoxine (B6) supports the immune system during periods of high stress, supports adrenal function and may elevate your mood.
- Folic Acid (B9) supports healthy brain function and supports mood.
- Cyanocobalamin (B12) plays an important role in the production of serotonin and melatonin, both important for healthy sleep patterns and a more positive outlook.
Support for a Healthy Brain – Our bodies cannot make B vitamins, yet rely on them for healthy brain function. During the holidays, B vitamins can help you maintain a more positive mental state by supplying nutrients that support a healthy nervous system. In fact, a variety of B vitamins support the production of certain chemical messengers in the brain and without a sufficient supply may contribute to memory loss and cognitive decline.
Our brains account for approximately 20% of our body’s energy expenditure, and so requires a healthy supply of the right nutrients. (2) Luckily, B vitamins support th body’s ability to convert nutrients into the chemical energy called ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which can help you keep up with extra holiday activities. And better yet, these same vitamins may even ward off what some call the holiday blues.
Maintain a Positive Mood – Drinking excess alcohol is known to depress the central nervous system and can even lead to states of depression. In addition, this is a time of year when a healthy diet is often set aside for comfort foods or holiday treats, which can also lead to an unhappy mood.
Nutrition is linked to our mental health, and B vitamins are important to support mood and brain health, all which are linked to a positive mental attitude and outlook. In fact, nutritional supplementation is linked to mood improvement, especially vitamins B2 and B6. (3) And supplementing with B vitamins can provide the extra support for when we do overindulge.
Replace Important Nutrients – All B vitamins are water soluble, which means they can be easily flushed from the system. Alcohol is one culprit that can quickly drain nutrients, and the combination of high sugar foods and extra alcohol drinks can deplete any vitamin B your system may have stored. To make matters worse, regular alcohol consumption can block your digestive tract from absorbing B12, leading to a less than optimal mood. Counter this by taking a B supplement during the holiday season to ensure your levels remain healthy.
Protection from Anemia – Anemia takes place when the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells and is a condition that is sometimes linked to a folic acid or B12 deficiency. This is because the body requires B vitamins to support the development of red blood cells. But some people may not get enough due to strict vegetarian diets, certain medications, or an autoimmune disease. A supplement that includes a wide variety of B vitamins can support a healthy digestive tract to avoid deficiencies that can lead to anemia.
Support Your Immune System – Vitamins B6 and B12 support healthy immune function. In fact, one study showed that B12 deficiency is linked to a suppressed immune response. (4) Low B12 levels are also linked to fatigue, which leads many people to expensive vitamin shots to replenish their nutrition levels. Supplementation with a B vitamin complex can support your body’s immune function, so you stay healthy.
Natural B Vitamin Sources
B vitamins include a combination of different types of vitamins including folate, niacin and thiamine. And because there are a variety of vitamins in this class, it is best to consume a variety of foods to ensure you get them all. Some sources of B vitamins include:
- Meats like red meat, fish and poultry
- Clams, oysters and mussels
- Cheese and milk
- Whole, unprocessed (or less processed) grains like barley, millet or brown rice
- Legumes such as lentils and beans
- Dark, leafy vegetables like spinach, collard greens and Romaine lettuce
Because many B vitamins are found in animal sources, vegetarian and vegans may need supplementation to obtain their daily requirement. In addition, this group of vitamins can be destroyed by food processing, improper storage or excessive cooking. And because the B vitamins are water-soluble, boiling or cooking food in water can leach these precious vitamins from the food source.
Fortunately, supplementing with a B vitamin can be as easy as one daily dose, which can help make up for any deficiencies that can happen during the stressful, holiday season. Stay on top of your health and protect yourself by taking care of your body so it will take care of you.
1 Stough C, Simpson T, Lomas J, et al. Reducing occupational stress with a B-vitamin focussed intervention: a randomized clinical trial: study protocol. Nutr J. 2014;13(1):122. Published 2014 Dec 22. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-13-122
2 Kennedy DO. B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and Efficacy–A Review. Nutrients. 2016;8(2):68. Published 2016 Jan 27. doi:10.3390/nu8020068
3 Rao TS, Asha MR, Ramesh BN, Rao KS. Understanding nutrition, depression and mental illnesses. Indian J Psychiatry. 2008;50(2):77–82. doi:10.4103/0019-5545.42391
4 Thomaskutty KG, Lee CM. Interaction of nutrition and infection: effect of vitamin B12 deficiency on resistance to Trypanosoma lewisi. J Natl Med Assoc. 1985;77(4):289–299.